House Cleaning

by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)

Joshua 24:15-18


14 "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
 16 Then the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God."

When I was a kid I absolutely hated cleaning my room. There just seemed to be a million better ways to spend time than cleaning up and the thing that really got me was that my mom would usually force the issue on Saturday mornings when all I wanted to do was watch cartoons, eat cereal and be lazy.

Should I express my displeasure and worse, childishly refuse to clean up my mess, then my mom would lay down the law. That law, in no uncertain terms, basically went something like clean your room or lose the freedom to watch television in the future and possibly the ability to sit down for a while.

In the first verse of today’s scripture the author writes:
14 "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

This verse makes me think about the first time my mom brought a trash bag into my extremely cluttered room. I thought that was pretty weird because trash bags were for trash; stuff like pop bottles, empty cans of fruit cocktail…you know…garbage. So why was she in my room full of toys with a trash bag?

I found out really fast as she began to fill it up with toys. I was stunned, shocked! What was she doing? Had she lost her mind? Toys are not trash. Mom informed me that the toys were going to a place called Goodwill…it was part of what would become her spring cleaning ritual.

For us adults I wonder if there are not things we would be better off without. Maybe stuff that clutters our lives, things that slow us down and on a more serious note…things that we have place in our lives that may even get between us and a fuller relationship with God.

Verse 14 says admonishes us to fear; that is to say revere or honor God and to serve him faithfully and to throw away false gods. That is what the verse means when it refers to these lower case “gods”. This also begs the question: What is a false god?

A false god is anyone or anything in your life that you ascribe worth to. Perhaps it is something you think you can’t do without or maybe it is something you absolutely depend on. For that matter a false god can even be a personal conviction.

For example maybe your false god is putting aside time for your own gratification. Anything that would hold a place above devotion to God and to faithfully serving God, with a first commandment devotion, would be a false God.

Remember that first commandment says “To love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength.” So, if devotion to your plans gets in the way of that you are serving a false god. Or if time you spend asleep is more important to you than time spent in prayer…you may be serving a false God.

So, what does the verse say to do with these lower case “g” gods? It says to throw them out; that is to remove them from your life; to not let anything come between you and your relationship with our upper case “G” God.

Now for the next verse:
15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

“…if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you…” that strikes me as a pretty harsh rebuke. However, there are all sorts of people serving themselves and ignoring that first commandment and, for that matter, the second commandment that calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

So, if you are going to be that selfish the scripture says to instead choose a god of your own making. The Amorite god is mentioned as are the gods of Israelite forefathers, but these were nothing more than idols made by human hands. And the false gods of today are also nothing more than human creation: be it money, possessions, ideas or whatever else you may try to put in the place of the one, true God.

So, if you are willing to make a stand will you join Joshua? Will you echo his pledge when he says “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”? I hope so, but first you must realize that you can’t serve the Lord with a dirty household.

First you have to clean house. You have to throw out those things in your life; be they material or immaterial that get in the way and that keep you from diving all the way into a relationship with the Almighty.

I remember what my mom use to do when she was spring cleaning. She’d throw out all the stuff, and even the residue and the dust left over from the garbage. She made things as clean as she could and then she’d open every door and window in the house and let Mother Nature shed her light into all those winter corners. She’d let that spring air freshen the place up.

We need to do the same thing when we clean house. That is to say we must do our part, but then we need to open ourselves up and let God shine and let God refresh us.

As Martha Stewart would say “It’s a good thing”. The children of Israel thought so and they answer Joshua enthusiastically. I mean they are ready to jump on board:

16 Then the people answered, "Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God."

I think this is awesome. How great would it be and how easy would it be to live a life of faith if we would just do the same and call to mind those times in our lives when God helped us, when God supplied our need. If we would just recall those times when we were healed, when our hearts desire was given to us.

Then we would not place any trash in our lives; we would accept no lower case “g” god imitation because in the foreground of our memory would be the knowledge that our God is the only God worth serving, worth knowing, worth loving.

However, there is a problem because, in the future, these people become rebellious once again and exchange the truth of God for a lie.

It would be presumptuous of us to say that such a thing is not possible for us. It does happen. Perhaps you know someone that has fallen away from God because of something that happened in their life. Perhaps you know another that was lured away by the notions born of a false religion and you might even know someone that has decided to simply serve themselves rather than God.

And so how do we guard against this happening to us? Well, by continuously examining our spiritual house to see what needs pitching and to see what areas need airing out.

I don’t know if you have ever been to the home of a pack rat or a hoarder, but other than the fact that the house is extremely cluttered is the fact that you can usually find vermin or mold or other unsafe conditions in those places.

So, if we do not clean our spiritual house things will accumulate and things will get in the way of our relationships with God and even with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

You know, the communion table is a perfect place for taking a harder look at ourselves and at what we hold near and dear. There is a liberty found in our relationship with Christ that allows us to hold onto those things God has blessed our lives with. The problem begins though when those things are holding us. If that is not happening in your life then there is no problem and if it is then you need to toss those things far, far away.

At the table of our Lord we realize that no false god can do for us what Jesus did in the giving of his body and the shedding us his blood.

So, clean your spiritual house, let the breath of the Holy Spirit touch every nook and cranny and let the “s-o-n” son shine throughout.

Amen

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